IRISH ACTOR Cillian Murphy has lent his voice to the fight against bullying in secondary schools.
The Peaky Blinders star, who has previously been involved in charity functions such as Cork's Simon Community, has now given his support to a project which aims to promote empathy among schoolchildren.
Speaking to The Irish Times, the Cork native explained how, as a father of two teenagers, he has seen first-hand the pressures faced by school-aged children and how something must be done to combat it.
“It’s a very complex time to be growing up," he said. "Things are changing at a very accelerated rate."
Children being immersed in the internet and social media can lead to a lack of empathy and a rise in bullying, particularly when comments can be left anonymously.
“We’re all aware of the role of the internet and life online," Murphy said.
"It seems that a lot live their lives inside this device, and it’s something we can never understand, not being natives.”
Murphy has joined with an NUI Galway project, led by Professor Pat Dolan, director of the Unesco Child and Family Research Centre, to promote empathy and understanding, thereby tackling bullying and racism.
“Empathy isn’t sympathy,” Professor Dolan told The Irish Times. “It’s about valuing, respecting and understanding another person’s view.”
The project aims to introduce an 'empathy programme' to secondary schools across Ireland-- and its initial pilot scheme has had some excellent results.
One student who took part in the pilot scheme, CBC Monkstown student Nathan de Buston, said the programme allowed students to "share opinions on how to treat others".
“Outside class I saw the biggest difference" he said. "The rapport in the locker-room was that bit more warm, or going home and thinking, ‘Maybe tonight I won’t slam the door and go off in a tantrum!’”
Speaking on the promising results seen so far, Cillian Murphy says he hopes to see the scheme rolled out in all Irish schools-- and says that empathy is a key skill for actors.
“You can’t really be an actor without employing empathy as a very important tool in your arsenal," he said.
"In supporting this education programme which we are launching today, my hope is that it will help young people see that everyone has a different story and everyone’s story is valuable.”